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katebaker

Time is of the essence

By | 2011, Europe | No Comments

“Time is of the essence”: this old legal phrase has somehow passed into our common speech to mean that time is important, and that we must make the most of it. Yet it still carries its original sense of hastening to fulfill some requirement as well. Time was of the essence in Europe. We moved from one place to another within days – each place containing experiences and treasures that could only happen there – at that time. Our ordinary every-day time was funneled onto the fast moving train of ever present activity. That is what it seemed like at times. But our leaders often reminded us of the need to take time to be, of the necessity of quiet alone-time. Those times taken – whether intentionally or provided by circumstance -were vital. Literally. They were life-giving. They were often the place where “the peace that passes understanding” could start to unravel the masses of emotion and experiences that had built up on the inside. Time is a medium we exist within, but we miss its essence if we stick to the consumer mode of measuring and using it to our own satisfaction; operating on the fear that it might run out. But time is not valuable for its length or amount; it is precious because it provides the moments where we meet with God, with others, with our own selves. It is the richness of our lives that determines the value of our time. The requirement we must hasten to fulfill, the goal we reach for, whether that is the richest experience for each European city, or seeking to “walk humbly with our God” is much more easily lost if we hurry through time or stretch it on the canvas of our self-determined schedule. This is something from the Europe trip that I will need to keep learning long after I hand in my final papers.

 

Kate

Mind-Maps

By | 2011, Europe | No Comments

I usually wander around Europe with someone who knows where they are going. My sense of direction is terrible and my map skills questionable, so wandering around an unfamiliar city today, alone with just a map, taught me something useful: you need to know where you are in order to know how to get to your destination. AND suddenly finding you present position on a city map may be difficult if you haven’t been paying attention to where you are going. This new piece of information struck a chord with my thoughts on the specifically academic side of the trip. In the middle of all the “experiential learning,” which is key to our travel term, we are encountering information and ideas – anywhere from WWI political history to surrealism in art. These silently ask us to responsibly consider what influence they have on the world and humankind – their effectual destination. This in itself is challenging, both personally, and as a group where opinions vary greatly, but in looking for the thought or event’s destination on the map of human existence you begin to realize that you first need to find your own position on that map – your own point of view. And so, consciously or not, the question turns inward. This self-reflective understanding becomes like knowing your spot on the map; it gives you a lighter mind and freer step in heading toward your destination – be it the bus station, or a political opinion.

Kate

Sunrise Over Florence

By | 2011, Europe | No Comments

A sunrise takes you to a place almost outside of time and space. To see a day born is a deeply moving experience, and I have seen few enough to remember most of them, but there have been two on this trip that I think I would remember – even if I drank of the mythological “waters of forgetfulness”
The first was in a field of poppies beneath the medieval walls of Carcassonnne, watching as the sun turned the walls into burnished gold and the poppies unfolded into translucent red silk. The second morning was on the steps of a 10th century church on a hill above the city of Florence. In that quiet and sacred space Janell and I watched the rays light on the Duomo and gradually waken the sleeping city.
Our dean Gregg Finley loves to use the phrase “thin place” to identify those times and places where the gap between heaven and earth is narrowed or closed. I can’t help but think, in the midst of man-made sculpture, painting, and architecture, that the most powerful beauty of all – the kind which creates such “thin places” – is the beauty of the natural world God created. In the midst of which are those moments when He lets us see it in all its glory. At the same time, I have to add that I am becoming more and more amazed as our trip goes on, at how He is so gracious as to share His beauty-making capacity with mankind. I see this gift in the beauty of Michelangelo’s “Pieta” or in the collaboration the Duomo of Florence and the walls of Carcassone with the light of His sun.

– Kate